The Core Fusion series of exercise DVDs with Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Halfpapp is nicely put together. The husband and wife team combine strength training with stretching and mindfulness, making for a pleasing combination. In this Abs & Arms DVD, they have 5 short workouts adding up to about 50 minutes total, along with a bonus 5 minute stretching exercise. The 5 workouts are:
- Upper Body Weights
- Upper Body
- Abdominal Curl with Leg Variations
- Upper Body, Back, and Hip Stretches.
They demonstrate the workouts in a pleasantly room with wooden floors decorated with an Eastern theme, lit with a soft indirect light that is soothing. There is some very repetitive and slightly annoying electronic music in the background, and while the audio options allow to turn off the spoken soundtrack, it is not possible to turn off the music.
All the workouts use a yoga mat, and several use a resistance band that is supplied with the DVD. The first workout uses light weights, and another uses a yoga block or a folded-up towel. There is no guidance about how heavy the weights should be -- probably between 2 and 8 lbs would be best, depending on the person.
The exercises are good. They can be challenging, but they don't require a great deal of repetition and they don't involve hard impact on the body, so there's less risk of injury. One of the pair, Fred or Elisabeth, will demonstrate an easier variation for those who have more limited strength or flexibility. The instructions they give in the voiceover are clear and straightforward. The advantage of the resistance band is that you can decide for yourself how much to stretch it, and how much of a workout to give yourself. Some people will find it a very useful aid to the workout. I found that I liked it for some exercises but not all. When pulling it tight, it could be uncomfortable on one's hands, requiring a tight grip between thumb and forefinger. In exercises where it goes behind one's back around one's shoulders, it had a tendency to slip up or down, to the neck or lower back. There are no markings on the band and it is hard to know from one day to the next where one has been holding it and what tension it has been at. It is much easier to control weights, and to know what weights one has been using. This will not be an issue for everyone, and it is worth trying the resistance band to see how one likes it.
I found these workouts to be well designed and enjoyable, as well as being good at building strength. 50 minutes is about the right amount of time for a workout, and it possible to choose which of the 10 minute segments to do if there is less time available. Fred and Elisabeth make claims that their crunches with the resistance band are much more effective than crunches one does at the gym, but I don't see any reason to believe them on this, and it undermines the credibility of the DVD when they make unsupported claims. Still, for those who want to tone their upper body, this set of workouts is a good place to start, especially because it combines the strength work with stretching.
© 2009 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.